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A Hind Let Loose by Alexander Shields

A manifest chusing of sin to shun suffering


6.

It is lawful of two evils of sufferings to chuse the least; where both come in the election, as in the cases forementioned, and in a man throwing of his goods overboard in a storm; these and the like are deeds in the present exigent voluntary and rational, being upon deliberation and choice, where the least evil is chosen under the notion of good, yea of the best that can be in the present case, and accordingly the will is determined, and meets and closes with its proper object; or one of them only be proposed to be submitted to, but another lesser evil of suffering is in a man's power to chuse and propose, for purchasing his immunity from a greater; which is not imposed nor exacted of him, either by a wicked law, or for wicked ends declared, but voluntarily offered; as in the case of parting with some money to a robber or murderer to save the life, when he is seeking only the life; as the ten men that were going to the house of the Lord said unto Ishmael, "Slay us not for we have treasures in the field," for which he "forbare and slew them not," Jer. xli. 8. In this a man does nothing, which under such circumstances is not only lawful (one of the main ends for which goods are given to him, to wit the preservation of his life, being thereby attained) but it were a grievous sin, and would conclude him guilty of self murder, not to make use of such a mean for preservation of his life, which God hath put in his power, and is in the case called for by his precept. But however force
may warrant one to do that, which may be done for shunning a greater evil of loss; yet it is never sufficient to make one to do that which is a greater evil, than all the evil that can be said to be shunned: For the evil shunned is suffering, but the evil done to shun this, is real and active concurrence, in manner, measure, and method, enjoined by law, in strengthening the hands of those who have displayed a banner against all the lovers of our Lord Jesus Christ; a manifest chusing of sin to shun suffering, and a saving of life with the prejudice of that in the preservation whereof he should be ready to lay down all, and be at a point to endure the worst this wicked world can make him suffer, ere he be found guilty in the matter of a compliance of that nature. And though the rod of the wicked should seem to rest on his lot, for his refusal, and he be the object of their rage and revenge, for holding his integrity; yet he shall be honoured as a faithful witness, helped to endure as seeing him who is invisible, and amidst all his sufferings and sorrows, made to rejoice in the hope, that when God shall lead forth these workers of iniquity, he shall not be found amongst the company of these who have turned aside with them into their crooked courses, and for that shall be overturned and crushed with them, under the curse that is hovering over their heads. It is true a man should not cast himself and his family (which if he provide not for, he is worse than an infidel) upon sufferings, either needlessly or doubtfully, when he is not persuaded it is truth and duty he suffers for, and of value sufficient to countervail the loss he may sustain for it. But on the other hand, in the present and all like cases it is highly of the concernment of all men to be careful and circumspectly cautious, when the case comes to be stated upon suffering or not suffering, in examining well whether the course whereby a man shuns suffering be of God, and not to take plausibilities for demonstrations: seeing the flesh is not only ready to inculcate that doctrine, 'spare thy self,' but is both witty of invention to plead for what will afford ease, and as unwilling to listen to what would, if attended unto, expose us to the malice and rage of rigorous enemies: It being always more becoming the professors of the gospel, and the followers of our Lord Jesus, who must walk to heaven bearing his cross; to abstain at all hazards when the case is doubtful, than to rush forward upon an uncertainty, when it is not evident they have God's approbation for what they do. Yea suppose a person erred to his own hurt in the first case, through weakness, yet it will argue much more sincerity and uprightness towards God, and is done with less danger than in the other. And as many as walk according to this rule, are like to have the peace of the Israel of God, to compense whatever of trouble or loss they may meet with in the world, when others shall not have this bird of Paradise to sing in their bosom.


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